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The 'Great Resignation': Black Women Share Why They Left Their Jobs To Find Fulfillment

A snapshot of what's behind the wave of bold professionals building their new normal.

Workin' Girl

There's this phenomenon that's being talked about on social media as well as in the news, where a wave of people have sparked what is now being called the "Great Resignation." Professionals have been chucking the deuces to working their 9-to-5s and saying to hell with pandemic-era fear and hesitation. This recent wave, which includes at least 4.3 million workers, has been led by—you guessed it—women, who have been quitting their jobs at a higher rate than men.

And here are some telling tidbits about the who, what, where, when and why of it all: Harvard Business Review reports that resignation numbers are the highest in the healthcare and tech industries, both areas where high levels of stress came in with the increased demand during and after the pandemic. Rates are also high among mid-career workers (Hey, all my geriatric millennials! Heeey!) who perhaps have "reached a breaking point" and are rethinking career and life goals.

Let's get into a few real-life stories of Black women who took the plunge to find success and fulfillment, redefine balance, and get to the bag in ways that shift the narrative.

Allyssa resigned from her job as a VP in marketing after more than a decade managing multimillion-dollar campaigns for global beauty and luxury brands. She officially launched her company, Meg & Munro, in September 2020 and hasn't looked back since. "I left because I began to notice that despite the resounding success, I was frequently being overlooked as a Black consumer of those brands and as a key strategist on the marketing team," Alyssa says. "With the goal of bringing more inclusivity to the marketing field, I launched a marketing and communications agency for beauty and lifestyle brands."

She held a passion to tap into new audiences and offer her skills on her own terms while expanding the landscape of brand awareness. "With the growing attention to the multicultural beauty and personal care category in the height of the pandemic, many brands needed help reaching the same diverse consumers they once ignored," she added. "Through public relations, social media, and influencer partnerships, my agency drives visibility, interest, and demand for brands aiming to reach multicultural consumers."

"Surprisingly, the pandemic allowed me to double down on my decision to leave my full-time marketing position. I saw how uncertain things were in the workplace and thought it was a better use of my time and talents to grow my own business."

Allyssa has enjoyed her new normal after taking the leap. "I now experience less anxiety (no more Sunday Scaries!) and have a lot more ownership over my work and time," she says. "Since launching, we have worked with dozens of beauty and lifestyle brands and creators including Converse Shoes, Footlocker, Anderson Bluu, Her Agenda, Strange Bird Beauty, Avocurl, and Yawoni just to name a few. Our work and clients have also appeared on The View and inGlamour, Forbes, Refinery29, Good Housekeeping, Hypebeast, Goop, and much more!"

For others who might be pausing their efforts to go forward with leaving their jobs, especially at a prime time when millions of companies and professionals are reevaluating strategies and goals, she urges planning and patience. "Leverage your network. It's important to communicate your values and let others know your goals for starting a business. Second, it's very important to plan your finances and strategy for making money within the first few years of operating. It takes time to start seeing returns in business, and it will be difficult to scale and/or make sound business decisions if you're constantly worrying about finances."

Melissa decided to go full-time with her love for makeup artistry last November, after slowly growing her business as a side hustle. "I was working as an underwriting analyst for an insurance company, and my part-time business was starting to require more of my time," she recalls. "The more it grew the more I realized that's where my passion was. My career was no longer fulfilling. In addition to not feeling fulfilled in my career, I had a boss that micromanaged everything I did."

"I felt overwhelmed, undervalued, and drained. My 9-to-5 was holding me back from reaching my full potential. My boss would often deny my PTO requests and when he did approve my time off, I would feel the retaliation when I returned to work."

The final straw for Melissa was when she took approved PTO for a big wedding booking, and upon returning to the office, was met with an abrupt meeting request. "It was about my work and more micromanaging. In that moment I knew I couldn't do it for another day. I submitted my resignation letter in the middle of a pandemic not sure what would happen next."

Stepping up her game in building MeMa Creations and gaining new clientele seemed like a natural next step for Melissa. "That feeling of uncertainty—not knowing what tomorrow may bring—made me feel so uneasy, but it also made my decision to leave very clear. I didn't want to continue putting all my time and efforts into a corporation that didn't value me. I was tired of sacrificing my own dreams for someone else's dream."

Since going full-time with her business she has enjoyed a level of success that she can be proud of. "I have done makeup for more than 60 weddings, in addition to my regular clients," she says. "I also offer virtual makeup lessons and one-on-one in-person makeup lessons. My work has been published in two major magazines in less than a year, and I am launching my makeup products before the end of the year."

Tracy started her firm in June 2020 as a pivot due to the pandemic. She'd worked for a decade in the finance industry, and had taken a leap of faith to pursue a career as a retail fashion buyer and independent image consultant. "The ongoing freelancing that I was doing lessened significantly in early 2020, but as opportunities came back, I was not comfortable doing image consulting due to the nature of the work. It was impossible to be socially distant," she said. "So when an opportunity for PR management arose, I leaned into it and grew it knowing I needed to replace my income."

Tracy's reputation preceded her, and she was able to help a previous image consulting client to help with her public image via PR management. That was when she says, Tracy Aliche Consulting really took off. "I took on the challenge, hit the ground running, and soon attracted opportunities to do the same for other entrepreneurs as a result of all the press I was able to secure. We now have a roster of five full-time clients, and the rise has been truly exhilarating!"

For others considering quitting their day jobs to pursue a new career or journey, Tracy suggests investing time in a bit of self-actualization. "One of the most important things to consider before leaving a job is being honest with yourself about what you're willing and not willing to sacrifice to reach your end goal," she adds. "What are you willing to give up? Would you give up your cozy apartment if it meant being able to sustain financially after leaving the workforce? If you insist on maintaining your current lifestyle as is, then creating a realistic timeline, building a financial safety net, and having a fully fleshed-out backup plan are non-negotiables. I think it's important to know your 'why.'"

Watchen Nyanue's journey in transitioning from a 9-to-5 to entrepreneurship during the Great Resignation has a positive twist. She'd been leading a podcast that was the launchpad for her brand, all while working full time as a WNBA executive. "My job was actually amazing, but I knew that, for the sake of my reputation and for the work I'd put in, I didn't want to start letting the quality of my work drop to pursue something else and ruin the reputation I'd already built in decades of work. My company was literally behind me 100%. They knew when the podcast launched, and they are [actually] one of my clients today."

Her platform, I Choose The Ladder, helps large corporations develop and retain their high-performing Black female talent, a service that came in high demand.

"The pandemic, at least for me, was a gift and a curse. The time that we had at home gave me some time to assess what I wanted to be spending my time doing and who I wanted to be spending my time with. And because I started planting the seed already, the jump wasn't as scary as I thought it would be."

She offers some key advice for women who are thinking about joining the wave. "First I would encourage folks to ask, 'Is it the company you work for, the person you work for or is it corporate America?' A lot of times we make large decisions based on really small factors. Maybe the company that you work for is not the best fit for what you're trying to do. That doesn't mean there's not a company that can meet your needs."

Another key piece of advice: "A lot of people go to entrepreneurship because they're running from something not because they're running to something. If you're running from a job and all of the chaos that you think might be in corporate, a lot of those things still exist in entrepreneurship. And if you have not figured out how to navigate [challenges] while on someone else's dime, it's going to be an even steeper, more expensive, more stressful, and lonely learning curve. So make sure you're running to entrepreneurship, not just from corporate America."

Featured image via Getty Images

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When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

“Purity culture,” as Benbow referenced, is a culture that teaches primarily girls and women that their value is to be found in their ability to stay chaste and “pure”–as in, non-sexual–for both God and their future husbands.

I grew up in an explicitly evangelical house and church, where I was taught virginity was the best gift a girl can hold on to until she got married. I fortunately never wore a purity ring or had a ceremony where I promised my father I wouldn’t have pre-marital sex. I certainly never even thought of having my hymen examined and the certificate handed over to my father on my wedding day as “proof” that I kept my promise. But the culture was always present. A few years after that chocolate-flavored indoctrination, I was introduced to the fabled car anecdote. “Boys don’t like girls who have been test-driven,” as it goes.

And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

Purity culture isn’t unlike rape culture which tells young girls in so many ways that their worth can only be found through their bodies. Whether it be through promiscuity or chastity, young girls are instructed on what to do with their bodies before they’ve had time to figure themselves out, separate from a patriarchal lens. That their needs are secondary to that of the men and boys in their lives.

It took me a while —after leaving the church and unlearning the toxic ideals around purity culture rooted in anti-Blackness, fatphobia, heteropatriarchy, and queerphobia — to embrace my body, my sexuality, and my queerness as something that was not only not sinful or dirty, but actually in line with the vision God has over my life. Our bodies don't stop being our temples depending on who we do or who we don’t let in, and our worth isn’t dependent on the width of our legs at any given point.

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